Iraq oil minister urges OPEC, non-OPEC emergency meeting: letter

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq’s oil minister has urged for an emergency meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC members to be called to discuss immediate action to help balance the oil market, according to a letter he sent to OPEC on Tuesday.

In the letter seen by Reuters, Thamer al-Ghadhban asked OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo to help “urgently achieve” extraordinary meetings of the OPEC+ group to “discuss all possible ways” to rebalance the oil market and mitigate current deteriorating conditions.

A deal to cut oil output struck by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia - a grouping known as OPEC+ that pumps over 40% of the world’s oil - is due to expire at the end of March.

That follows the collapse of talks earlier this month to deepen the cuts or extend the current pact.

Three years of cooperation between OPEC, Russia and other producers ended in acrimony on March 6 after Moscow refused to support deeper cuts to cope with the outbreak of coronavirus.

Moscow and other OPEC members have said that would mean removing all limits on their output, and Saudi Arabia has since said it would open the taps and hike its oil production and exports to a record high.

Oil prices have plunged since the meeting. Brent crude futures fell $1.32 to settle at $28.73 on Tuesday, the first time the benchmark has settled below $30 per barrel since 2016.

An OPEC and non-OPEC technical meeting, known as the JTC, planned for Wednesday in Vienna has been called off as attempts to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Russia made no progress, sources told Reuters on Monday.

The Iraqi minister also asked in the letter to hold an extraordinary meeting of the JTC and the OPEC+ ministerial committee known as the JMMC “to avoid adverse impacts on (the) short, medium and long term.”

Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Sandra Maler